FreeThought Fort Wayne

        Be Reasonable

Do You Mind if I Ask a Personal Question? (A mini-series?)

Posted by Andy D. on June 10, 2008

I listened to John Loftus’ speech to us again on why he rejects Christianity from the position of a former evangelical minister and apologist.  It is a good listen.  (Check out his referrals on his latest book! That is a long list of famous people who mostly are going to hell.  We were lucky to have John join us.)

As most of you know, I have been on my own educational quest.  I wanted scientific answers to the big questions with no BS.  I have been following the technical blogs and reading everything I could on evolution and I read ex-ministers’ books on theology.

During the Q&A period of John’s speech the theists asked (and made comments) on the same old morality and Hitler objections.  The freethinkers asked good logical questions and battled back the comments and the reductio ad Hitlerum fallacy. The topics were technical and logical.  I loved it.

Suddenly, in the middle of the talk, Sarah asked John if she could ask him a personal question?  We all laughed in anticipation of the question.  She asked John what did his family and friends think of him being out as an Atheist? What a great and relevant question!  I was focused on the logic and arguments; Sarah wanted to know more about the relationships.  John answered by saying at least we are not getting stoned now for speaking up about non-belief and he wanted to change the world.  He didn’t blow Sarah off, but I think she wanted to know more about the personal problems he may have experienced as a by product from being open. The young earth creationist attorney switched the subject for us so we didn’t get that answer.  I am going to e-mail John this blog post and see if he will respond.  I did a quick search on his debunking blog to see if he wrote about this already but I didn’t find anything).

I wasn’t even consciously focusing on this part of my life.  However, I am neck deep in this.  Most of us are probably having trouble in this area so let’s talk about it.  (Blogging is good for you! It sure beats prayer because someone actually reads it and they may respond!  Although they may both provide a self-meditating effect).

My brother has recently graduated from The OSU medical school and he is now engaged to his amazing girlfriend who is also a new doctor.  She is a devout Catholic and accepts a theistic type of evolution as the former Catholic generation did.  He was honest about not being religious and the two of them are getting along great.  I talked with Jim and suggested to him if he loves her there is nothing in our worldview that keeps him from participating in that part of her life.  The trade off is Jim has to have a big Catholic wedding which is her dream.   I love Catholic music and ceremony.  They sure beat the boring Lutheran services.   Don’t hate me folks if I turn off my logic hat during the wedding.  I won’t walk up and say excuse me do you realize there is no evidence for any of these far out claims?  I love my brother and soon to be sister-in-law far more than dragging up reason in the ceremony.  I would be a major ass if I did that.  In fact, that would be unreasonable and dare I say illogical.   (Is there some attempt at a natural selection type of altruism here?  Maybe selfish gene evolutionary theory applies?)

Where do we draw the line on what we tolerate?  I know it would be wrong and silly to run around nursing homes and start saying excuse me, did you know this God thing isn’t really true.  Of course, we draw a hard line to keep creationism out of science class.  I want to know more about the middle demarcation between criticism of religion and intolerance and what that means to our relationships.

I want to pose Sarah’s question to all of you.  What about your family and friends?  Are you open?  What problems are you facing?   I only scratched the surface on this topic and I will write a series on personal issues that I am having with family and friends.  It is extremely complicated.   Let’s help one another.  I will talk to you all tomorrow at the meeting!



14 Responses to “Do You Mind if I Ask a Personal Question? (A mini-series?)”

  1. Where do we draw the line on what we tolerate?

    The simple answer is we tolerate it all. Nothing you mentioned regarding your brother and his wife and their wedding even needs “toleration”.

    I’ve attended my brother-in-law’s confirmation in the Catholic church and I was glad to be there. Well it was 3 freakin’ hours long so I wasn’t THAT glad to be there. The point is this is an important event in your brother’s life and he wants to share that with you.

    If he tells you that you have to join the church to attend the wedding, that’s a different story, but that’s obviously not happening.

    I will be attending a Father-Son breakfast with my very religious father and grandfather this coming weekend at church and I am happy to go. Will there be prayer and a small sermon, probably, actually, most definitely but I still go because I don’t get to see my grandfather often and I usually have very good conversations with him and my own father.

    Do I bow and pray to god during the prayer? I bow out of respect to their faith but I don’t pray. I don’t stand around trying to chat people up when the pastor’s praying. I’m not an ass, well, at least not for that reason 😉

  2. I want to pose Sarah’s question to all of you. What about your family and friends? Are you open? What problems are you facing?

    Actually I am a closeted atheist to my family, although if they went looking they could probably figure out very quickly (or if they just asked).

    Sometimes I feel like I’m deceiving them by not saying something but it’s not like during Memorial Day weekend we’re having a hot dog and a beer and I’m like, “So, anyway, I’m an atheist and I was going to …”

    Honestly, my dad’s a smart man and the fact that he hasn’t asked, tells me that he already knows. The rest of my family is very active in evangelical churches and if they were to find out, oh man, I’d never hear the end of it.

    “We’re praying for you”, (Don’t waste your breath)
    “What about your kids” (What about them?)
    “[my name], that’s very disappointing. I thought we raised you better than that” (Obviously, you didn’t)
    “God still believes in you” (That’s original)

    Of course, they could be cool with it.

    [blaring siren]

    Sorry about that my “Yea Right!!!” meter just went off the charts.

  3. Theo Doersing said

    “Where do we draw the line on what we tolerate?”

    I wish it was obvious when to proselytize and when not to, or when to take offense and when not to, but it simply isn’t. My guess is that if decisions were this easy either Christianity would be proven right because everyone would act on a God-given standard code of conduct or Christianity would have been defunct a long time ago, because people would have seen it for what it is- subjective babble that never chimes with life, let alone its own dogma.

    I personally save my strength and mental energy for what I consider to be important when engaging religion on any level on any occasion.

    I was just at St. Patrick’s church Sunday (the church I was married in) for a triple baptism (that’s 3 kids, not one really sinful kid). I preoccupied myself with my kids and recalling the architecture and nativities. I can’t help but zoom in on all of the stupid. Whether I act on it is a different matter.

    Although I could see myself shouting out a rebuttal to a ridiculous sermon during service, I saw no reason to denigrate what is for all purposes a special occasion to show off the newest members of their families.

    The main thing I have trouble tolerating is intolerance (I don’t miss the irony there either). I can handle misguided efforts by friends and family that are made in “good faith”, so to speak, but anyone who purposely tries to deceive me or others for their gain I don’t have a problem telling where to go.

  4. Theo Doersing said

    The only person I ever found it difficult to talk to about religion was my grandfather. He always encouraged me to think and learn and create. He also took religion (and, unfortunately, the current sham of the Republican party known as the Bush administration) very seriously and contributed a lot of time, effort and money to his churches. He was a good man that used religion the way God would have intended had He actually existed. It was his way of giving and helping others, but not the source of his joy, just the outlet he used to express it.

    He was a smart man, and smart enough to know my basic opinions by the questions I asked. And I asked a lot of questions. Had he lived a few more years I think I would have come straight out and told him I was an atheist, but that would have been the first thing he would not have been proud of me to hear.

    After he died, I went through his library and read nearly all of the books he had. It is sad to say, based on the bulk of his substantial reading, that I know I would have had as much to offer him as he had me for all of my life. But I don’t know if I could have changed him or would even have wanted to. My father had a huge rift with him years ago concerning religion, and I don’t know if my logic would have made a difference anyway. He probably would have blamed my heathenistic ways on my father corrupting me or something equally ridiculous.

  5. Just to weigh in here, I don’t say much about my family and friends for several really good reasons. For instance, which family members, and which friends are we talking about? Should I make blanket statements about them all? I can’t. Some remained good to me while others told me to seek counseling. Also, if my book hits the bestseller list some snoopy young Christian reporter will find out any dirt about me he can find, so why give him any info for free? I also don’t have the time to dwell on such a topic because I am focused on the arguments themselves.

    But I will say that I’m very happy to have come out of the closet. I am a freethinker and I have a right to express what I think. No one should have to suffer anything for what they think. I merely reflect back on the many people who were branded as infidels and heretics who were tortured and burned at the stake, and I just cannot let their blood be spilled which gave me the right to speak out, and not do it. What would they say about such cowardice? Athough, being tacful and respectful with others is an important value I share.

    That’s just me. I know others have more at stake if they speak out. But whatever you do, be more courageous today than you were yesterday. Take some baby steps. Take a few risks. Choose your battles wisely. Ask questions, if nothing else.

  6. andyscathouse said

    Thanks for weighing in John. Those are great points about why you didn’t go into your personal story. As I said, I didn’t think you dodged at all. (I only caught this on the play back). The conversation moved into a different direction naturally. Your quote above, “Some remained good to me while others told me to seek counseling,” is what I am experiencing and it is informative.

    We all should do what we can to promote reason even if baby steps. I am interested in tactics and what other people have tried. FFW is important to build a support network. While I love learning and will continue to do so, I am more in the IF not God, then what stage…. rather than is there a God?…. I am interested in the marketing plan and strategy. We have a tough job ahead of us in this anti-intellectual environment.

    Skeptigator and Jake- Great comments. My brother’s marriage is easy to maneuverer. I was bringing it up for a search for the demarcation between religious critique and obnoxiousness. I will write later with problems with the rest of my family and it will get grayer. (It is long and I too have extremely religious grandparents). I am learning more about you all in every post!

  7. Andy,

    I love sushi so you can add that to the list of things you know about me.

  8. andyscathouse said

    Wow, there must be a link between those pesky separation of church state liberals and sushi. I love sushi, too. Are you bringing any tonight? It does scare me a little to eat it here in a land locked state.

  9. dystressed said

    Family is the hardest thing to consider for me as a part of this group.

    I am staying in the closet for now, and the irony is literally hilarious, if you get the inside joke.

    I also like sushi, so yes, maybe all the mercury poisoning from the raw fish has made us crazy.

    On a side note, in the minutes/recap, I’m using screen names only to refer to people because I would appreciate people extend me the same courtesy.


  10. Theo Doersing said

    Sushi sucks. There. I said it. Sue me.

  11. […] 13, 2008 by mightymjolnir (This is my response to Andy’s post from a few days […]

  12. […] 18, 2008 by andyscathouse This is a follow up from my earlier post and Mighty’s asking, “Are you out with your family and friends about not believing in the […]

  13. Goldstein said

    I was interested in Loftus’s statement about some reporter finding out any dirt on him he can,

    Is there dirt to be found?


    You know, atheists just KILL me! LOL! They tell me there is no God to tell me what to do, but every atheist I have met, and there is a little hive of them here at the factory, loves to tell me what to do!

  14. andyscathouse said

    Great Comment Goldstein,

    It is really vague again. It is good to see we have Loftus’ stalker on our website. Remember I asked you to read Loftus’ and Price’s book before commenting here. What exactly does the evil hive of atheist’s at the factory tell you to do? The only thing I can think of they ask you to read more, open your mind, and be reasonable.

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