Suppose someone wants to get you to watch Star Wars. They heard that you never watched it, and they come up to you, friendly enough, and start talking about Star Wars while claiming to want to be your friend. You have no interest in seeing Star Wars, and say so. But they keep persisting. Or they might change the subject, but each time you run into this person, they bring up Star Wars.
They say it’s impossible to have a fulfilling life without Star Wars. That you won’t understand love and forgiveness until you have a personal relationship with Yoda.You start to groan every time you see that person because you know there’s going to be another long conversation about Star Wars. It gets tiresome.
Now imagine meeting many people like this, constantly, though out your life, starting when you were five. So that when you meet someone who you know a a fan, you’re skeptical about their intentions. Will this person still be my friend when they learn I don’t like Star Wars? Will this person badger me constantly about getting into Star Wars? Will every conversation I have with this person revolve around Star Wars? Will this person believe that only Star Wars friends are on the path to salvation and only Star Wars fans are good, caring people?
This is why I don’t trust Christians when they say they want to be my friend. Typically it translates to “I want to be your friend so I can get you to be a Christian.”
So you only want to be my friend if I change who I am.
With the message being that I am deficient.
This is insulting!
This is also not friendship. Friendship is acceptance and tolerance of differences. A friendship does not center around one person getting the other one to change who they are. When Christians call me “friend” and challenge me to convert, it does not feel friendly.
When Christians contact me and are only interested in talking about Christianity and leave messages about how they hope I will find Christ’s love or whatever, they are insulting me, on many levels! Because the message I am getting from them is that my life is worthless and not meaningful and I need to change. Further, the other message I get is the only reason I am friend material is because of what I may become, not what I am. Think about that for a moment! As I am I am not worthy of being a friend. Just because of what my beliefs are.
Think of how you would feel if someone wanted to be your friend, but only if you watched Star Wars? Would that feel like friendship?
It feels condescending and insulting. At least I know where I stand with people who are openly aggressive. I strongly dislike mind games and manipulation.
The other part of this is the assumptions that Christians have about atheists. When Christians find that I volunteer, have never reached my full salary potential because I spent so many years working for nonprofits (essentially I got a master’s degree so I could get paid less than a teacher), am an uber goody-two shoes (the one time I got even so much as a traffic ticket was because my taillight was busted, and that’s the extent of my run ins with the law), that I don’t smoke, use drugs and only drink on about three or four occasions a year, and for the most part live a happy and fulfilling life (it’s not perfect, but I’ve yet to meet a Christian with a perfect life), this challenges everything Christians are taught. Some become real mean to me as a result, and I’m not sure if they’re wanting to provoke me or are just angry that what they’ve been taught about atheists is wrong.
But bottom line, don’t expect me to welcome you with open arms when you come round proclaiming Christ’s love. You are insulting me.
And if you genuinely do want to be friends and don’t care about conversion, well, I am going to be skeptical for awhile. And that’s the way life is. As a white person, when I interact with people of color, I have to bear in mind that they have been mistreated by white people. And while I may have been mistreated by the occasional POC, it’s not the same. When I started dating my multi-racial husband it opened my eyes to how racism is still a pervasive, daily occurrence. It’s not enough for me to say, “Trust me, I’m not racist.” I have to show that I am an ally, and POC have every right to be skeptical of me for as long as they need to be. Like I have a right to be skeptical of an individual Christian for as long as I need to be.
Really, the defining moment is when I come out as an atheist. If they say, “Oh, ok, tell me more about that?” or “Oh, interesting, cool!” I’m generally ok. But if the person’s eyes widen in disbelief or they start asking in an astonished voice, “but why?” or “but you seemed so nice!?” then I’m going to check out.
But if you do want to convert, well, I can’t stop you. But understand, you are being insulting, demeaning, and digging yourself into a bigger hole and only giving your religion an even bigger black eye reputation wise.