Husband and I have been hosting a once a month game night for almost three years now. It is a nice time to get together with friends and an interesting mixture of people show up each time. Sometimes there are only three or four of us, sometimes there are ten. Some of the people who come know about my deconversion, some don't. We play games, so it's not like the subject comes up often and it's certainly not a church-affiliated event so no one cares. I recently invited a friend who admits that he really separated himself from friends due to a controlling wife and some depression issues and now that he is divorcing said wife he is trying to reconnect with old friends. He is also an open atheist, which I am a little jealous about, but it seems to have caused him a great deal of heartache in the beginning.
So there we are, learning a new game, and a friend asks how we know each other. I told the truth, we met at a youth group we both used to attend. To me, this was all the information they needed and it would have made him more accepted by the group if he had left it at that. But he couldn't. I'm not sure why but he apparently felt compelled to tell them all about his deconversion, the problems it caused, and his issues with the Bible.
Holy fuck people. It was awkward. They were uncomfortable. He was uncomfortable. I was uncomfortable. I felt torn between completely agreeing with everything this guy is saying and trying to shut him down because I could feel the tension from two of the ladies at the table. They were NOT okay with him speaking against the Bible. One quipped, "Well, you can believe in science AND the Bible." Another added, "I studied those things and still found faith." You could tell they felt attacked even though all he was doing was stating what he believed. But here's the thing, it was an attack of sorts because no one asked him why he wasn't a Christian anymore. No one asked him to go on a rant against the Bible and their religion. And they are looking at my like what in the world and I'm in panic mode because I'm thinking, these people don't know I'm not a Christian anymore and I don't really want them to know. I ended up changing the subject back to the game and he apologized later stating that he never knew what to say in those situations.
So here's the advice I would give him if I was a bit more confrontational: Nothing. You say nothing. You nod your head and say, "Yes, we met at youth group. I definitely don't go to that church anymore because I had some issues with it." And then you leave it the fuck alone. You play your games. You laugh and joke and you don't offend people you don't know. And here's the thing, I would expect the same from my Christian friends. No Christian at any game night in three years has gone on a rant about religion and why they are a Christian and what they believe. Ever. That's not what that night is about.
And I wondered, is this what it's like to be openly atheist? Feeling the knee jerk need to tell people that you don't believe and why? Or is it this guy's experience and insecurities that leads him to do this? Now, don't get me wrong, I had an hour long conversation with one of the girls after game night in the parking lot and she didn't say anything about him. It was a blip on her radar. But if you feel the need to interject your beliefs or non-beliefs into a situation that doesn't call for it....well, don't. You aren't going to earn brownie points for making sure everyone knows you are an atheist/religious/liberal/conservative/etc. I know there is a case to be made about being up front with who you are, but a simple, "I'm not religious anymore" would have sufficed.
Today my husband sat down and talked with a friend (let's call him John) about a "missions" opportunity. The idea actually came from my husband who years ago told his small group that the churches should be more concerned with the care and keeping of others, than prosthelytizing. That a church's charitable nature shouldn't have strings attached and that people were now wary of the church because of this. The commandment to take care of the poor, widows, and orphans didn't include a mandate to covert those people. You should love out your Christian faith in your actions, now just with words. Husband also discussed that one shouldn't have this savior complex where you come into a new place with the assumption that because there are non-Christians there, the current organizations are not doing a good enough job. You should be partnering with people and learning from them when you can. John was one of the few people within the group who took this to heart and pondered over what that could actually look like.
Now, husband and I do give to charitable organizations. We are willing to fund Christian ones if we support the ministry or effort. One thing we both agree on is that if someone is marching over to a foreign country to try and convert the godless heathens, then we want no part of it. We did not support John and his wife when they decided to go to Europe to become missionaries. I did not agree with the organization they were teaming up with and I absolutely believe that this couple very much had a savior mentality. They were going to go to Europe, learn a new language, partner with the local churches there, and win people to Christ. Being the good Evangelicals that they are they went to a country and city that is 73% no religious affiliation and 23% Catholics. (Catholics aren't really Christians in Evangelical circles. Just don't tell the Catholics this of, course.) So they are already on my list of not-so-awesome Christians because their lives revolve around witnessing and how to be "better witnesses". Due to unforseen medical issues, they returned to the US and are looking for a new ministry opportunity. Of course, like any good prosthelytizer, you can't just start a ministry that will feed the poor, or become foster parents, or start a charity for single mothers. No, you have to figure out how to prosthelytize, but not in too open a way.
John wants to create a fun space on college campuses that would be a sort-of safe space for people to come and talk, play games, hang out, and ask questions. Husband reminded John that this would mean being a space for everyone...LGBTQ, heathens, Christians, non-religious, etc. If people catch wind that you are a religious organization bent on conversion masquerading as a fun space, people will get mad. I know I would be pissed if I showed up for a game night event at college only to end up with someone asking me if I was religious and what I believed. I would have been mad even when I was a Christian, because it would have felt like I was being tricked. I would also never have returned.
I know John. John is SUPER religious. I don't believe for a second that he just wants to partner with some Christians and create a fun new club on college campuses to help students. I don't think he gives a fuck about students. He just knows that statistically if people don't convert when they are relatively young, they probably never will. He knows that many young people fall away from their Christian beliefs in college. And he knows that there are a truck load of "lost" people that he could get his hands on. John never went to a normal college btw. He went to a Christian college followed by seminary. He has no idea what they teach at so-called regular schools, but he's basically a God's Not Real (the movie) truther and obviously college students are being led astray right and left.
I told husband that John will need to have a fully formed business plan and some partners he wants to work with before I even consider donating any money. More than likely, we won't give any money because I doubt John will be able to come up with a solid business plan that doesn't read like a Youth With a Missions or Campus Crusade for Christ pamphlet. But we shall see. Maybe he'll actually listen. Maybe he learned something in Europe. Or maybe there will just be another crappy college group that will use board game nights and book clubs as a way to get their foot in the door to preach at people. Backdoor evangelizing. I also want to point out that we live in a predominantly Christian area in the Bible belt. I rarely meet atheists or ex-Christians. Even the people who have a problem with organized religion can't quite bring themselves to not believe in a god. So John will be preaching to people who, even if they aren't going to become preachers when they graduate college, they are probably not going to denounce religion either.
Personally, I would love if more people did denounce religion altogether, but I am certainly not going to try and evangelize non-belief to people. Such things could make a person a social pariah and people have been known to lose jobs, friends, and family over such things. On a very personal level I hate the idea that John wants to go minister to college kids. I hate that people who may just be beginning to think for themselves, could be sucked back into religion by a well-meaning dude with a savior complex who thinks everyone needs Jesus in order to live happy and fulfilled lives.
This is a personal, but secret, blog archiving my deconversion from a Christian to a non-believer.