Monday, March 7, 2011

Freedom From Anti-Religion

I reconnected with an old friend on Facebook last year. We hadn't spoken in 20 years and I didn't know where she was or what she was up to, but at one point we were best friends so I thought I'd "friend" her on Facebook. She accepted and now I read her (frequent) status updates.

She's super interested in animal rights, specifically dogs. Most of her posts urge people to write their government officials about cruel animal treatment. She also likes to flame the celebrities like Michael Vick.

And when she's not posting about her rage about animal cruelty, she posts about her atheism.

This is really hard for me to read because, as a Christian, it's offensive to me. I'm sure she faces the same thing on a daily basis and feels outrage too. But...

But...

She feels completely comfortable saying hateful comments about Christians, like "Look at what those idiots believe!" And, I have to admit, I don't get why that's okay.

Sure, she's entitled to her free speech. Does she expect other people to respect it? Can she expect me to respect her expressed opinions when she CLEARLY doesn't respect mine?

Her remarks don't really remind me of atheism (the belief that there is no God), but rather more of antitheism (the opposition to religion). Her hateful comments (and those of her Facebook friends) never seem philosophical in nature or for that matter, even intelligent. It's usually comments like I listed above, or links to articles about religious leaders who have stumbled or been humbled by their own sinful behavior.

Because, you know, it's always good to find someone's mistakes and point them out and call them an idiot or a hypocrite. That's very mature, right? Doesn't that make you want to take that person's point of view more seriously, the fact that they can kick a person when they're down?

Please.

Again, I don't begrudge her the right to speak her mind. Possibly, she feels like she has to provide the opposing sounding board to Christianity. (Although, I have to say, it seems like her hate speeches are never directed at any other religion except Christianity, which is kinda odd if she truly believes that God doesn't exist for Chritians as well as Buddhists and Muslims and Hindus and Jews, etc.)

I know I speak out about my faith because I am called to do so by my own religious beliefs. However I don't try to shove it down people's throats. I'm a Christian but HELLO I'm also a person who understands how to not alientate people in social situations. And for what it's worth, I'm not of the religious flavor to tell people that they need to repent for their sins or else face the fires of hell. Not my place. I think that would be very off-putting and possibly offensive.

But why is it okay.... nay, ACCEPTABLE all in the name of freedom of speech.... to call Christians "idiots"?

If that's okay, is there any line that can be drawn? We can't use derogatory comments with people of other races or genders or sexual orientation or disability. But it's okay to call people of other religions "Stupid" and "Losers"? Why is this not considered hate speech? Generalizing an entire group and making blanket hate remarks... I thought that was what was called prejudice.

I just feel really sad about it, that she expresses so much anger about people of religious beliefs. Clearly, she has a big heart, as she is deeply concerned about the welfare of dogs, especially those ones in danger of mistreatment or being put to sleep. I know she has the ability to love. If she can love animals, why is it so hard for her to love people? Or, at the very least, just not hate them?

I haven't said anything to her about this ever. I know she feels very strongly about it (obviously) and I wouldn't try to convince her to accept religion. But, maybe she could just hate people of other beliefs less? I wish I were strong enough to say something to her, but I have to admit something: hate has a lot of power. The emotion behind someone's anger is very forceful and when that hate boils up in polite conversation, it quickly comes out. Perspective gets lost. Feelings get hurt. Offense is taken. I don't want to have all that ugliness dumped on me. Maybe that makes me a coward, I don't know. I would like to maybe block her news feed but I'm not very Facebook-savvy about settings like that. Plus I wonder if seeing her comments actually might help me feel more solid in my own beliefs? maybe???

I really don't think this is about being religious or not religious. I guess it's about, a person who wants the freedom from feeling oppressed by others belief, while at the same time oppressing others with her own beliefs.WHATEVER their beliefs are. Maybe I'm having a hard time drawing the line between "expressing her opinion" and "shoving it down people's throats".

What do you do when you have friends who are very vocal about a belief that is in opposition to your own?

Texan Mama

20 comments:

Bridgett said...

Goodness. I had almost this same conversation this weekend on a girls weekend to the lake of the ozarks. We are all neighbors, and we have another neighbor who is vegan, runs a cat rescue organization, is addicted to exercise, and adopted two disabled children from a foreign country. She is also a former Christian who kind of dabbles in buddhism, so not quite the same thing. But she is so strident in her beliefs and so offensive and elitist and hurtful. If you have, say, birthed your own children instead of adopting, or if you eat meat (even responsibly raised meat) or God forbid your husband is a hunter, or if you don't adopt cats that are hurt and sick, or if you don't run 5 miles a day while your husband watches your kids, or if you celebrate Christmas....you're on her disdain list. Or even if you simply work a day job outside the home (she and her husband do not--he works from home and she runs a cat rescue organization from home). Then you obviously don't love your children enough. Nor could you possibly love them as much as she does because yours are not Korean or deaf.

We have a hard time with her because her kids play with ours when we're all out in the afternoons, and she'll come over and be so abrasive. Part of the conversation was "how do we best be her neighbor?"

But if she were just a facebook friend, I'd simply de-friend her.

Hot Tub Lizzy said...

there isn't a font here big enough to express my agreement with you. I have a cousin who was doing the exact same thing and I finally just had to block seeing her posts. If you don't want to believe in God, that's fine. But please stop ripping on those who do....

Michelle Saunderson said...

I must say that I pity people like that. If they are so insecure that they cannot tolerate people who have dissimilar beliefs, then they have a real problem. I am confident with myself and what I believe, so I don't have to shove my opinions down other people's throats. If someone comes to me and wants advice, I will gladly give it, but only if they ask.

Karen said...

It is so good to hear you say that! I feel exactly the same but never know how to put it into words. I also feel this way about racism. I feel whites are getting a bad rap when it comes to that. Would whites be able to hold a White Expo? That would be called racism. Why is it okay to have Black Expos? Can't we just all get along? LOL

Cookie Crums said...

Funny how everyone except Christians can spew their beliefs but when Christians do it.... it's looked at with complete negativity and creates an uproar. The thing is... if you were posting things on FB that she had a beef with, she would probably let you know ALL about it. And more than likely, she would not do it in a nice and debate type of conversation. It would be filled with rants and hate words. It's all about taking the high road.... standing for what you believe and if given the opportunity to share, do so.

Jamie said...

I had a very open face to face conversation with an old friend about a similar situation.

We are no longer speaking. We were best of friends growing up, but we lost touch and have turned into two very different people.

Through my life experiences I have stepped away from "organized religion" aka church. I still believe in God. I know that he walks with me, and guides my life. However, She had no problem posting about people who are too lazy to attend church, people who just don't love God enough to make the effort. She posted almost daily about how attending church was the anchor of life, because with out that fellowship we are like a ship lost at sea.

It was a mess. My life is better with out the stress it was causing. I needed to remove that hate to continue along my happy path. I wish you peace and happiness with the choice you will have to make.

Someone Being Me said...

I think most people feel it is ok to make fun of Christianity because it is socially acceptable. Make fun of Jews or Muslims and you would be slammed for being intolerant or ignorant. I would just block her posts like I did with my ultra liberal sister during election season. I can still see her pictures and go to her page if I want to get an update but I didn't have to listen to her hateful speech about stupid Conservatives on my feed everytime I logged into FB.

Kristy said...

Yeah, I agree with you. You can believe what you want, but be nice! Geez, it's just not ok to call a very large group of people "idiots!" She must thrive off the attention this brings her?

Melani said...

Hey Texan Mama! I have not been around in a while...your title stuck my interest.

As a fellow Christian I feel that well your friend might be ignorant about what your faith and others just might be about.

My suggestion to you is to pray for her, pray hard for her, and pray for your situation, this might help.

I would be kinda scared to talk to her about it too.

When I have friends or my sister that get on their soapbox about certain issues, believe it or not, but I just listen to what they have to say and then if we are on the phone, which we usually are, then I gently try to move to a new topic, one that doesn't get them going.

Nice to read you again!

Jennifer said...

I have a friend on Facebook that is Atheist and he doesn't post stuff like that at all. Sometimes he will post things about his views or link to a story he's seen, but he usually follows up with a discussion. He just doesn't take things at face value and is a super rational person. I think that is why he can't believe in God. He just can't accept something he can't see or touch.

But all of that is beside the point. It sounds to be like she has a problem with "religion" and not really is an atheist... as much. But then I have Christian friends that can be just as brutal and judgmental as your friend. I don't think it has anything to do with their beliefs, but everything to do with their personality. They want people to see the world they do and if they don't, "well then they're just wrong." I personally think people like that suck. I like being around people that have all sorts of different views. I mean, how boring would the world be if we were all the same?

Crystal said...

THis is a tough one. I received the Lord as my savior 8 years ago when my hubby was in Iraq. He has helped me through so much, and He walks with me daily. It's emotional and personal...so i would have a hard time not getting emotional when talking to someone. i keep a lot of what I believe to myself..because people are so passionate one way or the other. I don't know what I would do...probably hide her comments from my feed. I'm open to other beliefs but not disrespect. And THAT is disrespect. People can disagree in an intelligent way w/o crass, degrading or negative comments.

GunDiva said...

I'd just block her. People like that aren't worth wasting your time and/or energy on. There's nothing you can do to change her mind and she'll surround herself with likeminded people.

It's just sad really.

I have a "friend" like that, only her big thing is breastfeeding. To the extent that she took a ton of hormones (tell me how good that is for your body, or how "natural" it is) in order to bring in milk so she could nurse her adopted daughter. She's very anti-Western medicine and that's her right, but I'd love to be at the dinner table some night when her husband - an MD/Professor with the Mayo Clinic and very pro-Western medicine - discuss healthcare issues.

Gigi said...

There would be no point in trying to talk to her about this. NONE.

I've discovered that people who are so vehement in their views will not listen to what someone else has to say. Period.

Email me, if you want, we'll figure out how to block those posts if you don't want to see them.

Jennifer said...

Ugh.. and this is the problem with facebook. I don't mind differing opinions or freedom of speech, but I DO mind being bombarded with hate every day. I have a friend from college that posts many posts daily that are directly adverse to my own political beliefs and I don't mind that, except he is like your friend and always has very hateful comments accompanying the links and posts. They are usually of the " I don't know how any intelligent person can be for the other side..." variety and that is just plain offensive. Because not everyone has the same issues, needs or agendas.. and that is why we have so many different political views in this country. So, my offense comes when someone tells me mine are wrong/stupid/assonine, etc. And, like you, I want to block him sometimes, but then I don't because I am a people-pleaser and I don't want to make him mad or hurt his feelings. And also, generally, he is pretty supportive and nice to me about the things I tend to post (which are usually not controversial)

C and P said...

Ran into your blog through someone else's and it's so interesting that this is what I read first! We are just starting a blog up, and my husband is a big, vocal atheist. He won't go as far as your friend did, but he lets it be known when it comes up (which I think is fair.) I, on the other hand, am in question over everything, am pretty sure I don't subscribe to any religion in particular but can't say for sure that nothing else is out there, and for now I'm happy with that.

Anyway, he wanted to put things on the blog about religion which I think is fine since it is your space, but I said not on OUR blog because it just seems negative. Even as a very non religious person, I don't feel that dissing anyone's religion does any good. The best part of Christianity to me is the desire for peace towards all, and it's always upsetting to me when the hypocrisy of those who believe this is shown. BUT that is not everyone, and I see that there are some who act what they believe and that's wonderful.

Atheists, on the other hand, don't really have any nailed down beliefs except that God doesn't exist. This is sad to me just because it seems that they sometimes don't follow by many kind rules or manners and are just rude and mean. Once again, THIS is not all of them. But it certainly does give a bad impression and doesn't make anyone listen. Sorry for this rant, but basically it comes down to the fact that people are people, and people with every belief will act the same ways, good and bad. So maybe just tell your friend that you respect her belief as her own, but that it's offensive to you when she says derogatory things to you. If she's not a close enough friend to say this to, then maybe just block her news feed?

SORRY again for this long thing, but I just got into this subject recently. :)

Anna See said...

I don't think talking to her will help at all. I would consider blocking her OR trying to respond to any positive posting she ever makes. Kill 'em with kindness, I guess.

Kacie said...

I'd talk to her. I'd be nervous, but I'd talk to her. Because I want to give her a chance to not be hateful. I often think people are hateful because the other side has hurt them and because it isn't personal to them. If you, as a friend, make the "other" into a person, it's much more difficult to continue to hate, and if she does it's her own fault.

You wouldn't be confronting, you'd more be asking. Tell her that you're puzzled or hurt by her tone, because you are a Christian and you don't think it's fair to be so hateful. Ask for respect, and tell her that you, as a Christian, believe that she also deserves respect in return.

It might go a long way.

Kacie said...

By the way, I just read this post about having a conversation with an athiest: http://rachelheldevans.com/conversation-atheist-alise-wright

Rachael said...

I am a Christian. I don't walk around talking about how Atheism is stupid and shoving my beliefs in people's faces. I believe that everyone has the right to believe what they do. I don't mind if people have a different opinion, but when I hear someone say that Christianity is STUPID, I get defensive. I just don't understand the need to put other people down and be negative. I also agree that there is a huge difference between being an atheist and being anti-religion. I don't think that being disrespectful of other people's beliefs is okay, no matter what side you're on.

Ash said...

I'd block her and let it go.

I've had to do that with a few of my "friends" because of various inflammatory updates. You know me. You KNOW me. I'm tolerant of any and all civil race/creed/culture/viewpoint, as long as you bring it with openmindness and understanding that we're all in this together. But I gotta tell you, this middle-of-the-road WASP is exhausted from all the abuse, and quite tired of smiling and saying "thank you sir, may I have another.

Block her now.