I found myself muttering this question to myself today. But I think the answer to it is "No." Sometimes we just can't get along. Sometimes fundamental beliefs and worldviews are so diametrically opposed that people just can't come together. At least not on that topic or in that area.
Religion and atheism are like oil and water, or liberals and conservatives. They just don't mix. Of course when the subject comes up, I've found that to change the subject to less volatile topics can lead to friendships budding between unlikely opposites. As long as you leave the hot-button topics off the table.
After all, just like my religious friends, I love, laugh, sleep, eat, have relationships, have pets, etc, just like they do. We can get along on these topics, even the ones where we don't match up all the way. For instance, I can understand my friends when they talk about their kids even though I'm (happily) childless. This is mainly due to my empathy (yes, atheists have empathy too. We're not sociopaths. [We do eat babies on special occasions, though. Of course.]).
But when it comes to talking about religion and atheism, things inevitably get tense, misunderstandings occur, and it generally ends up ugly at some point. Even when I have worked very very hard to be fair, gentle, kind, thoughtful and honest, it still ends up going sour eventually. After awhile, you hit nerves. Big ones. And it's not pretty.
And hitting a nerve can happen when you least expect it. On my other blog I simply said, "Reason trumps faith completely. Reason and faith are the antithesis of each other."
I think that's pretty straightforward, isn't it? In that forum I have defined faith at least once. Faith is strong or unshakeable belief without evidence or proof. So how is my statement condescending and offensive? It's just a fact. And yet that is how it is perceived.
I'm not saying that some people can't get along. But in my personal experience, and in listening to how others have done it, the only way seems to be to avoid the hot button issues and focus on what you have in common. When worldviews are diametrically opposed, people get passionate.
Remember we talked about Terror Management Theory? I'm going one step further and have just downloaded a copy of Michael Shermer's new book, The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies---How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths. I think maybe that will help me to understand people, because right now I try, but religious thinking and faith are a complete mystery to me.
Do you interact with people who have diametrically opposed worldviews to your own? How do you get along with them? What works for you?