Talking to Fundies: A Day at the Beach

July 1, 2007 at 9:00 am 23 comments

dsc01059.jpgIs “fundies” a derogatory word? I don’t mean it to be. Unless told otherwise, I will use it.

I went to a lunch on the beach yesterday. It was beautiful. My daughter was splashing in the water and my wife looked as gorgeous as ever. Yet, for some reason, I wasn’t having the enjoyable time I usually do when out with my family. Maybe it was the setting: my wife had convinced me to attend a church hanging-out-at-the-beach function – all of her old friends were there. I wasn’t keen on the idea, but I thought it would be worth the brownie points with the Misses.

I have nothing against hanging out with Christians – it’s not like they are trying to convert me: since I am there with one of their former longtime attendees, they assume that I am one of “them.” I usually play along. Stirring up debate with a 100 or so Pentecostals at a beach party isn’t my idea of fun, nor is it very tactful. I figured I would mind my own business, be a pleasant human being, and enjoy my day at the beach – but what happens when I get asked what book I am reading to keep myself amused when the answer is Richard Dawkins’ “The God Delusion”?

The predicament isn’t much different when I get together with family, but they know better to ask me anything or else I might give them an answer that might make them think I am going to “H-e-double hockey sticks.” But honestly, what does one say when a fundie, who thinks you are a fundie, surrounded by fundies, asks you why you are reading such an god-forsaken (or forsaken-god?) book (although I found it amusing that I actually had to explain who Richard Dawkins is)? Do you engage in the debate you were hoping to avoid? Do you lie and make up some b.s. answer and change the subject? Do you give a vague, but truthful, response leading your inquisitor thinking whatever he/she wants to think about you. I, of course, not wanting to ruin my day or embarrass my wife, chose the third way out.

The conversation didn’t last much longer past my initial response since it is fairly easy to get out of difficult situations when you have a 7-month-old. When we were leaving the park, I said goodbye to the man that had asked me about the book and as we parted ways he said, “have a good one – don’t read too much.” I wasn’t surprised at this odd comment. I brushed it off, smiled, and left.

I am connected up the whazoo with evangelical churches and para-church organizations, and perpetually find myself in similar situations. I am almost always assumed to be “one of the gang” until I usually say one little thing that gives me away as “different” or I politely refuse to lead the group in prayer (which, I must say, is very awkward). For those of us who are not completely “out-of-the-closet” with our atheism/agnosticism, these situations force us into a compromising circumstances, which, in a passive way, takes us back to Mary’s “Preaching Atheism” topic.

When one thinks of the term “preaching ‘x’,” it usually manifests in one’s mind as that kind of cold, impersonal monologue of spiritual enlightenment (or any sort of enlightenment I suppose). It’s the sort of attitude we bloggers are familiar with – we have something to say so we write it. Sometimes we let others comment on it, but we are the big cheese. We are the preacher. For our blog anyway. But what about dialogue with those that really matter? Family. Friends. Those that we left behind in our de-conversion experiences. These people are not to be “won over” or debated using argument through reason – especially if one is not completely out of the atheist/agnostic closet? Is the friction and heartache worth it?

Oh yeah, Happy Canada Day!

-The Apostate

Entry filed under: TheApostate. Tags: , , , , , , , .

Christianity and the use of Anecdotal Evidence Don’t Ask Me to Read Your Holy Book

23 Comments Add your own

  • 1. notabarbie  |  July 1, 2007 at 9:54 am

    OMG! You went to a day at the beach with fundies and you were reading The God Delusion?! You have ba**s!
    In all seriousness, as I have tried to crack the door of the closet I have found that it isn’t worth the friction or the heartache. Granted sometimes you don’t have a choice if you want to maintain your personal integrity, but it’s hard to have that closet door slammed on your fingers every time you answer honestly. Not being one to “keep quiet,” this has been an exercise in self control that is extremely difficult at times, but for now, it’s worth the discomfort and bloody tongue.

    I love the statement that guy made, “don’t read too much.” Doesn’t that say it all?

  • 2. thebeliever  |  July 1, 2007 at 9:59 am

    Haha, I am a Christian but that was a good read. And I like this word ‘fundies’.

  • 3. stellar1  |  July 1, 2007 at 11:01 am

    Funny how christians are always talking about being persecuted for their faith, but it seems to me that it is they who persecute others for their belief system (or the lack thereof).

    The more I read about how we are all trepid about our non-religious stance around relatives and friends, the more I realise how it should not matter to the world that I do not believe in a god, so long as I am a person who does no harm and strives to make a viable contribution to society.

  • 4. Thinking Ape  |  July 1, 2007 at 12:09 pm

    stellar: “the more I realise how it should not matter to the world that I do not believe in a god”

    I think this is easy for us to say, but looking from the outside in, it isn’t that simple. I remember wrestling with evangelicalism a long time before rejecting fundamentlism. It just didn’t feel right to tell people what to believe – or was I just a child of my generation, a backsliding pluralist? Yet when I thought about whether proselytizing was right or wrong it all came down to what I really believe. Did I really believe in a heaven and a hell? Yes. How do you get to heaven? Well, if I KNEW the answer, it was my moral obligation to share it, wasn’t it?

    Most Christians aren’t out there to be arrogant jerks or ignorant conservatives. The former are your gung-ho leader types that would be the same way for any way of life and the latter are generally brought up to be that way – I read that 75% of homeschooled children are evangelical Christians, and I was one of them.

  • 5. Heather  |  July 1, 2007 at 12:10 pm

    I agree with notabarbie — the “don’t read too much” was the best part of the story.

  • 6. Sue Ann Edwards  |  July 1, 2007 at 12:32 pm

    In my family, my Husband is the one from a Pentecostal family. He tells his brothers and sisters, even their preacher to his face, that he doesn’t want anything to do with their fear Cult.

    I handled it in a different way. I’d simply say that I believed in the Values of Tolerance, not Rejection and, Understanding, not Condemnation. Then would go on to say that Prejudice, Bias, and attitudes of Arrogance and Supremacy, religious or otherwise, were not part of my ‘moral’ code.

  • 7. rebecca shannon  |  July 1, 2007 at 12:50 pm

    Loved this post Thinking Ape. I find it interesting that you took that book to the beach at all, knowing the day was going to be spent with fundamentalists. You are more out of the closet then you realize. 🙂 Or so it appears to me.

  • 8. The de-Convert  |  July 1, 2007 at 1:46 pm

    Thinking Ape,

    As a big fan of the Holy Bananas site, it’s good to see you around. Looking forward to reading more of your posts.


    In all seriousness, as I have tried to crack the door of the closet I have found that it isn’t worth the friction or the heartache. Granted sometimes you don’t have a choice if you want to maintain your personal integrity

    I’ve struggle with sharing my views of Christianity with my family and friends. What’s interesting is the fact that they don’t really want to hear and prefer to keep their previous view of me.


  • 9. Lyndon Marcotte  |  July 1, 2007 at 2:34 pm

    Those confrontation conversations are all too familiar. I too usually nod and smile politely looking for the nearest exit. It’s not worth arguing over. You can’t change the minds of the brainwashed in a soundbite. Good luck on the journey.

  • 10. Thinking Ape  |  July 1, 2007 at 3:01 pm

    Lyndon: “You can’t change the minds of the brainwashed in a soundbite.”

    Excellent point – I was looking for that term, soundbite. I suppose that is what can make fundamentalism so attractive – their “soundbites” are incredible, whether they are conversation stoppers or not. Perhaps someone here will write an article on that.

  • 11. karen  |  July 1, 2007 at 3:17 pm

    Hi Thinking Ape, glad you are here! What a great story you have. It’s amazing to me that someone home-schooled can seriously reconsider their faith at such a young age, and in Christian college no less!

    You give me hope, you really do. 🙂

    As for me, I’ll have to be honest and say I took the easy way out. I smiled and nodded politely at church functions when I attended after starting to “lose faith in faith,” I never prayed or praised the lord, though I would stand quietly during hymns and sit quietly during prayer.

    Overall, it was too difficult for me emotionally to maintain many of my church relationships, so I opted out. I avoided a couple of social occasions and let other relationships, commitments and ties expire naturally.

    Meanwhile I developed good friendships with more secular people (some religious, some not) where I could be honest about what I don’t believe. This was the way I needed to handle it at the time and while it was hard on my husband (who is still a Christian) he’s learned to accept it – and me.

  • 12. societyvs  |  July 1, 2007 at 4:51 pm

    Hey I am Canadian also – so a Happy Canada Day to you also!

    I think speaking your mind in a peaceful way and within dialogue is not a bad thing to do – since the Christian faith includes a lot of the ‘talking ideal’. I don’t think you should care what other’s think about your beliefs – since those same beliefs are not hurting anyone. If the fundie people cannot understand then too bad for them – their loss.

    As a Christian myself – I have no problem with people of various backgrounds and diverse beliefs – this is part of living this life anyways (we cannot betray our own thinking and experiences). I respect people of various faiths and various ideologies and I am open to the idea of learning from one another in an attitude of sharing and discussion. Maybe those fundies are not there yet – but they will be if nudged – and I think you can help them open their minds to becoming more logical and looking into the heart of their faith (which they likely question very little).

    Either way – the path to peace is the one less travelled.

  • 13. superhappyjen  |  July 2, 2007 at 11:35 am

    I’m lucky enough to come from a less than religious family, so I don’t get into a lot of these situations. But there are always those times. Years ago, when I was just discovering what it meant to be atheist and that my lack of belief made my different, I would get into debates with every Christian who made a comment. The more comfortable I became with my own beliefs, the less I cared what other people thought about them. If someone asks, I tell the truth, “I’m an atheist” with no further explanation. It took a while to be able to explain how I came to my lack of belief, without insulting the beliefs of others by calling them fairy tales. But I realise now that belief has less to do with what’s true and more to do with the individual.

    And I would have a couple of books on the go. Perhaps something a little safer for Christian company.

  • 14. Thinking Ape  |  July 2, 2007 at 11:54 am

    “And I would have a couple of books on the go. Perhaps something a little safer for Christian company.”

    In some Pentecostal circles, this is a surprisingly limited choice. I come from a Mennonite background and some of us are even ALLOWED to read Harry Potter 😛

  • 15. tobeme  |  July 2, 2007 at 12:27 pm

    Sounds like you handled your day at the beach well. I believe in open conversation, the type of conversation which inspires thought. I think it is important to remember that many of today’s agnostics were once whom you consider fundies. This is why it is important to have an open dialouge.

  • 16. Anonymous  |  July 2, 2007 at 2:30 pm

    I am an agnostic. I am a former fundamentalist Christian, Baptist.
    My wife is still a Christian.
    We home school, but never did it for religious reasons at all. We just thought we could do it better and be closer as a family.
    My goal is to at least teach my kids to think for themselves.

    My whole family on both sides and the community we live in is full of fundamentalist of different brands. The crap will hit the fan for me one day I know. I have not figured out how to handle it.

  • 17. pastorofdisaster  |  July 2, 2007 at 3:19 pm

    When I am in similar situations (all too often) I always wished that I kept my mouth shut. A friend of mine always says, “would you rather be right or happy?” Thanks for the good post.

  • 18. salahudin  |  July 2, 2007 at 7:06 pm

    Come take an oath with us… *smiles*

  • 19. Brian Jarrett  |  July 3, 2007 at 10:50 pm

    Great post; reading “The God Delusion” surrounded by fundies is pretty ballsy. I had a similar situation while out to dinner; a lady asked me if my son was a “Jesus-Boy”. I politely tried to diffuse the situation by saying we weren’t that religious and hoped she’d just drop it. She just kept on and on and finally I had to tell her we had things under control and to not worry about us. I didn’t want to get into a heated, public theological debate with a 70 year old woman and fit the “evil atheist” profile her leaders have no doubt warned her of. All I wanted was to be left alone.

  • 20. angllhugnu2  |  July 4, 2007 at 3:31 pm

    Are you in the closet? i do realize “the closet” is symbolic. BUT, I am not quite sure the perception of where you find yourself is. YOU ARE IN A CLOSET of your own making. And, that is really okayt! In fact, we all ARE!

    When we find ourselves amidst the swarms of those with whom me find disagreement, this is not an accident. We are baiting ourselves a hook on our own spiritual fising pole to see what person we might catch to prove to our own self we ARE right about our own spirituality. I have discovered this to be a way we finally figure out “we are co-creators in this world” with what is great and magnificent. And, it IS as well the reason for why we eventually do come to understand how it is we are “The Way, The Truth, and The Life….and how know one comes to us without The Father within them as well.

  • 21. thelaymansjournal  |  July 10, 2007 at 2:37 pm

    I am a Christian, yet I relate to this post from when I was a Baptist. I recall that one of their forte’s was to teach you not to read material that was “counter-Baptist” so to speak. Don’t listen to rock music. Don’t hang out with “non-Christians”, unless you’re attempting to convert them of course. Don’t read or study anything to do with “the occult”, evolution, etc. It seems to me that their purpose was to shelter you from finding out that much of what they believe is rooted in the very things that they teach you to stay away from. If you have a Christian belief that differs from theirs, you are in a cult. Considering their behavior, I believe it is quite the opposite… For the most part.
    Now I am a unitarian Christian and I simply keep my mouth shut when it comes to religion unless I am asked a question about what I believe. And even then I try to keep my answers as short as possible so as not to offend anyone.

  • 22. Thinking Ape  |  July 10, 2007 at 3:14 pm

    Good point with the cults. I was downtown Vancouver last weekend and we walked past the Church of Scientology office. She asked me some questions about it and we got to talking about the “difference” between religions and cults. Colloquially, it appears that a cult is simply a religion without a certain threshold of political power.

    I would love to check out an Unitarian church – there aren’t many around here – the closest is over an hour away.

  • 23. Anonymous  |  July 10, 2007 at 4:40 pm

    They are few and far between. The trinitarian organizations have done what they can to suppress unitarian ideas.
    The organization I belong to is scattered around the world. My family are the only members in our area so we simply “do our own thing”. Some like to call it “home church”. I think that’s corny though.
    If you research it you will find there are just as many sects of unitarian thought as there are trinitarian. I’ve simply picked the one that makes sense to me given my current understanding.

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