A lot of my friends are atheists, and most of them are at least agnostics. (In fact, having come to seminary, my deist to non-deist friend ratio has been severely skewed – pleasantly, but still.) A lot of my friends are also demonstrably smarter than me. They get better grades, have higher IQs, speak more languages, solve Rubix cubes, do things like triple major as undergrads, etc. This has meant that I’m very often in situations where talking about faith is very, very difficult.
It has also had a huge impact on how I talk about faith, which has become increasingly clear to me through blogging and being with people in seminary who mostly are people of faith. I wouldn’t say that my friends are hostile to my religiosity – otherwise they wouldn’t be my friends. But they also don’t share some assumptions I do, and they’re willing and eager to challenge everything about religion in general and Christianity in particular and my Christianity in extra particular.
My method for talking with my friends about faith has been to adopt their language. They have no interest whatsoever in the “Holy Spirit”, and that term doesn’t even have much meaning for most of them. If I’m talking about the Holy Spirit, I have to explain in great detail what I mean, and I have to do so with as little reference to the supernatural as possible.
This makes me come off as a little odd in their company, but there’s a lot of mutual love and respect as well. I’ve weathered a lot of conversational storms, so though I’m the weird one, I’ve proven that I mean what I say at the very least.
This also makes me come off as odd in conversations about faith with other people of faith. I’ve been adjusting since I’ve arrived here, but it also comes out in my blogging a great deal too.
I think I’m going to keep speaking about faith the way that I do. I’ve had way too many amazing conversations with atheists and agnostics about faith because I am able to meet them where they are and, far more importantly, respect them where they are. There have been a number of times when someone confides in me their sense of relief around me because they feel like they can talk about faith without being judged or coerced into believing.
Actually, most of the really ardent atheists I know are atheists because of some awful experience with someone trying to “save” them. They have other reasons they think are good, but that was the tipping point for many of them.
I mention all of this to explain myself a little further. Perhaps this helps shed light on my previous posts, or style, or why I seem to so often attract the ire of more conservative folks.
I’ll be honest. I think I can talk to people about faith who would be impervious to overtures from a more conservative person. I think, in doing this, I serve an important function in at least a few people’s lives. Sometimes I can be present for them when, and in a way that, another Christian perhaps could not.
If my goal was to “save souls” and rescue people from Hellfire by squeezing Sinner’s Prayers out of them, I guess this would be an ineffective way. I’ll openly admit that no one has ever said the Sinner’s Prayer at my urging. (Well, except for once while making fun of a Chick Tract)
I started listening to a podcast that is also an XM radio show called the Infidel Guy. Basically its this atheist radio host who has guests in to talk about religion. Its gotten me thinking a lot more about apologetics, and I may post more in that vein in the future. At the very least, I have a lot of practice talking about faith with frighteningly intelligent people who have thought it through and rejected it. Maybe there’s something there.
Of course, I know there are those out there who are reading this thinking “well, he believes in evolution and gay rights and feminism and pacifism, so he’s not really Christian either.” And that’s fine. I have to become better at talking to you too, but I’ve got lots of time.