So this woman, Alise Wright, is married to a man who deconverted. She said she made some pretty big assumptions when he told her he didn't believe in God anymore. So this is her advice to other Christians on dealing with us godless heathens. I think they are really great!
Surviving a Conversation with an Atheist
1. Please don’t assume that they’re evil. ...The idea that because someone doesn’t believe in God means that they will become a murderer is very frustrating, particularly as the wife of one of “those people.” C.S. Lewis suggested that one of the proofs for God is our common morality. To assume that because someone lacks belief in God means that they no longer possess a sense of right and wrong strikes me as a strange way to prove God’s existence.
Her thoughts here, the last sentence especially, are really excellent. I would add that people get their morality from society and their role models. Atheists, humanists and freethinkers discuss and try to improve their ethics as society evolves and matures.
2. Please don’t assume that it’s just a phase. Most atheists who have “deconverted” from a religious background have studied it and other religions thoroughly before choosing not to believe. Painting it as a “phase” denies the seriousness of both their study and their decision. I would certainly not want to have any encounter with God resulting in a closer devotion to my faith called a phase and neither should we use that terminology for those who have left the faith.
Right! Most atheists deconvert after much study of the religion they are leaving, as well as other religions of the world. It's a tough decision to make, and most do not take it lightly.
3. Please don’t say “It takes just as much faith to be an atheist as it does to be a Christian.” Most atheists will say that they are empiricists. That being the case, they are just looking for proof. It doesn’t take faith for me to not believe in Big Foot. If there was proof that he existed, I’d be open to it, but it’s come up short so far. Atheists feel the same way about Christian proofs for God. Non-faith is not the same as faith.
OMFSM! That's awesome! How many times have I said basically the same thing about leprechauns? Thank you, Alise! You get it! I've never heard a Christian say this before. Faith, by its very definition, is the opposite of where atheists are coming from, because most of us look for evidence when it comes to something as important as a god.
4. Please don’t assume that they weren’t really saved before they became an atheist. No one wants to be called a liar and this kind of statement reads that way. Maybe this is more for me than for my husband, but I don’t like to think that I spent 13 years with someone who may have lied to me about such a foundational part of our relationship, particularly because I know that he was very sincere in his Christian faith. Throwing more doubt at someone’s unbelief, particularly if they were a believer before is damaging to them and to those who love them.
I don't really have anything to add with this one. I don't recall anyone ever saying I wasn't saved when I was a Christian.
5. Please don’t assume that they’re unhappy. As Christians we often say that our joy is found in our faith. As a result, it’s easy to make the assumption that those who have no faith are unhappy. But as generalizations go, this is just not true. There are a number of things in the world that are fascinating and beautiful and most atheists I have met are fully appreciative of those things and find joy in them.
Hallelujah! Well said, Alise. Yes, this one really makes me very angry when I'm told I can't feel happiness and joy like Christians do. I get this a lot and find it quite offensive. 99% of the atheists I know are happy, compassionate, passionate, loving, and full of wonder and awe about the universe.
The most common mistake we make with just about any group that is “the other” is that we tend to make assumptions. And the best way to avoid assumptions is to ask questions. And the best way to get to the questions is to just be a friend. Which is really what most of us want anyway. To be known.
One need not share a faith to share that.
I really couldn't say it any better myself. That's so true.
What assumptions have you heard about you as an atheist/humanist/skeptic/freethinker that aren't on this list?