I had lunch with an old friend today that I do not often get to see. It was great to spend some time in person just talking about our lives, until the conversation somehow swayed off into religion. My friend is a conservative Christian with a family history of the Pentecostal denomination. Now, she is not what I would call a practicing Pentecostal but the roots of her doctrine are strong despite her willingness to forgo some of it such as wearing pants, makeup or watching TV, etc; so when the conversation morphed into a discussion from her belief that God is against gays, to her belief that the bible is the authoritative divine word of god, where was my courage to speak up and say that I didn’t believe that?
In this respect I suppose that I became a disingenuous appeaser since because of our friendship I chose to mute my own perspective and allow her to have hers uncontested. I was aided in my choice of response since she never once asked me what I believed. The closest that she may have come to that was simply saying “ya know” at the end of her statement.
Afterwards I asked myself why I didn’t challenge her beliefs and why is it that I don’t generally challenge the beliefs of my family. Is it that I lack conviction of my own beliefs?
One of my atheist friends would quickly dismiss the following explanation as rationalization. Perhaps it is, but it is true and the real reason why I don’t contest friends and family on their beliefs or openly discuss that I disagree with them and why.
While I could have told her that I disagree and that I think she is wrong in her beliefs, what purpose would that truly serve? Should I take away whatever measure of comfort and balance that her beliefs provide for her just so that I can assert that I am right and have her agree with me? Because basically that is all a debate or argument represents- that we as humans desire to be right and proven so when someone relents their own opinion and agrees with us.
Some may think, “ but not opposing her only allows her to continue to believe that she is right and able to force her beliefs on the rest of us”. But I know her very well, she is one of the most charitable and compassionate people I have ever met. She is someone who willingly provides help to others and forgoes her own convenience to meet the need of someone else. Despite what her mouth says, her heart acts differently and I know this. And I know this is true of the majority of Christians that I personally know. They are good people who choose to believe a doctrine. I am not inclined to group every Christian in one cookie cutter mold and say that they are trying to force their beliefs on me and I wish others didn’t do it either. Just like I wish that many Christians didn’t think of all atheists as being eager to attack their beliefs.
In the end it comes down to the fact that I think arguing subjective belief is just a waste of my time and energy. It is unlikely that I would change her belief by anything that I have to say and it would strain an otherwise wonderful friendship. The times we discuss religion are rare, very rare. And what we have in common is much greater than our differences.