Good Reason

It's okay to be wrong. It's not okay to stay wrong.

The cost of religious faith: Relationships

This rant from Matt Dillahunty is getting a lot of exposure this week, and justly so. He hits on a lot of great points, and I only wish I could say so much in one coherent stream. I had to hit ‘pause’ several times and let things sink in. It’s that good.

It’s all worth watching, but I’ve highlighted this part near the end. Jeff and Matt talk about the cost that Christianity (in particular) imposes on non-believers and ex-believers in the form of broken relationships.

Jeff: But there is, this is my personal hobby horse today; there is a cost in deciding that you’re going to take (in particular) Christianity on faith and that is that when you run into folks like us who don’t believe it, you are compelled because you’ve decided to believe in Christianity; you are compelled to think all kinds of horrific things about us. And tell us, or come at us with these threats of eternal torment which just draws an insurmountable line between us. And we cannot be friends because of what you have decided to take on faith. That’s the cost.

Matt: Yeah and I’ll tell you, that divisive cost plays out not only in the previous caller who had to give up his job because of “good intentioned Christians”, but I have a fiancée sitting in the room who is essentially estranged from a good portion of her family who consider me to be the devil. Now, I may not be a perfect person, far from it, but I’m generally a good person and a caring person, and I do the best I can to live the best life I can.

I certainly am not – well, I guess if I was the devil, this is exactly what he would say, so who knows? – but the absurdity of the divisive nature of Christianity in particular (and by the way, I am an atheist in regard to all gods, but since you’re kind of representing Christianity), it breaks my heart. People who actually understand what love is; people who actually understand what morality is; people who actually understand reality; it is almost unbearable to watch the people that you love be so absolutely duped into a divisive, hateful religion that they think is not divisive; they think it’s inclusive, and they think it’s positive.

It kills me, and it’s one of the reasons that I do this. Because I, for 25+ years, believed this stuff. I am so happy – so happy – that I no longer think that my former roommate is destined for hell. I am so happy that despite the fact that my relationship with my parents, the nature of it is changed, I don’t have to worry about them. The division is entirely one-sided. I didn’t end relationships when I became an atheist. Christians ended those relationships, and it was because their particular religion cannot tolerate – I have letters from people who said ‘We can no longer associate with you. You are of the devil.’

This is true for me, too, and I think it’s true for anyone who’s deconverted. The ostracism, the disownings, the mysterious unfriendings — we’ve all paid a cost in the form of broken relationships, and it’s not us that is doing the breaking. It’s not us that can’t tolerate other points of view. It’s the folks in the fragile bubble. Bubbles don’t last long without complete and unconditional unanimity, and we just don’t offer it, nor should we.

I’m still on good terms with many of my family, but certain other members have told me that by (for example) having this blog and writing against religion and Mormonism as I do, there would be “consequences” to our relationships. And I don’t hear from them now. Other ‘best friends’ from my younger and more churchy years have disappeared or rejected me entirely.

It’s a cost I’m prepared to pay, by the way. The loss of friends and family members is insignificant when compared to what I gain — the ability to tell the truth. (I realise that makes me sound like them, but I’m not the one making it an either/or issue.)

I don’t always say everything I think; I’m pretty good about choosing when and where to put my opinion in, and it’s just about always right here or elsewhere on the net. But even that’s apparently too much for them — I shouldn’t be saying or writing anything. The way they phrase it, I’m attacking them. I’m not; I’m attacking a religion, and if they think I’m attacking them, then that tells me that they’ve mistaken their own identity and their own goals for those of the religion. (A distinction that the religion is not keen to draw, for obvious reasons.)

I’m putting this out there because I seem to be running into a lot of people lately who think that religion is somehow this benign thing that doesn’t harm anyone. “What’s wrong with people having faith in their religion?” they say. “It gives people hope and a sense of community.” Blah blah blah. It’s not benign. It’s poisonous, and it ruins relationships. Ask any deconvert about the treatment they’ve had at the hands of believers who couldn’t let the presence of an unbelieving friend or family member sully their fantasy world.


  1. Hooooh boy. Been there, done that. Christianity destroyed a long-term romantic relationship when my partner converted to a very fundamentalist form of faith. When I wouldn't accept Christianity, my partner broke up with me on account of us being "unevenly yoked." I also had a friend who mysteriously broke contact with me after converting to Christianity.

    I think these behaviors reflect a basic insecurity in faith. If one's faith is so fragile that it cannot tolerate people who think differently, what good is it?

  2. I think I will try and remember your bubble analogy when I am talking to family and friends who are in one. Again more for my sake than theirs, so that I can make sense of the bubble. I keep making the mistake of thinking there is no bubble and that they can converse with me in a rational manner but I am sadly disappointed nearly every time.

    The pain caused by religious people shunning their non-religious family and friends is very sad. I am truly surprised by how blind they can be to the suffering that they encourage/cause.

  3. What's funny about this is being treated by family who remain IN the church who were treated with similar behaviour when they joined! The Mormon church gets a heap of this in the wider community "ooooo what are you doing joining that cult (you know they baptise dead people and have many wives!)?" Members (as they refer to themselves, I prefer calling them 'dicks') will routinely console the recent converts in this situation while simultaneously treating the apostate in the same manner.

  4. The one-sided nature of worry and disappointment is so tragic.

    In leaving the LDS church, I found myself relieved of the weight of everyone's eternal salvation and finally able to appreciate others for who they are now and what they actually want!

    Meanwhile, several close loved ones struggle with sadness over my choice – they can't be happy for my happiness. Instead they are stuck with a sadness they can't remove – and they continually worry and still feel responsible for helping me "back to the light."

  5. I'm not your average Christian. Far from it. I'm NOT out to change YOU in any way. I rely on prayer, prayer, prayer to. However, while I respect your worldly beliefs, how far does that go? Only till you perish shall that work. I have another perspective; here’s our peAce de resistance: doesn't matter whether you believe or not, brudda, you're STILL gonna croak in our lifelong demise; then, while our mortal bodies are recycled in the grave after our Finite Existence, our indelible soul rises-up to be judged at the General Judgment. Here’s the point I want you to consider before you leave this world: sex in Heaven. Why not?? Can’t God provide everything? Thot so. The Trinity is just as happy you made it to the realm where we can have anything we desire for eternity rather than the realm where we can have absolutely-placebo-nuthin; if Almighty God provides everything else, why not passionate, intimate love make’n for the length of eternity? Besides worship on ‘Sunday’, dunno bout you, but I want that. See, God knew the ol El Diablo would lie like a rug and trick U.S. into believing love make’n wouldn’t be possible in Heaven, so why not git a buncha ho’s and condemn yourself? Lookit Eminem. ‘Sex is just for earth’ you say? WRONG. If you have the desire, anything and everything is possible in the Great Beyond. So dream big, America. God loves that. God loves U.S. to ‘pull Him down outta the sky’ and fantasize about where we’re going. God can and will provide if we have a seed of faith. God will water. I have faith in you, too. God bless you with discernment. -1 Peter 4:8- Just type-out on your browser 'Pascal's wager'. Be at peace. Enjoy.

  6. I sympathise with your position, but I walked away from a marriage breakup (that was not instigated by me) with a suitcase and cut off all ties, because of the memories …

    There was no religion in it, it is just the thing with small "communities" and family groups.

    After that, my spouse re-married quickly, and "they" talked about me in the past tense, as if I were dead. A past thing. An enigma, nonetheless.

  7. It's definitely a group thing, there's a lot of psychology behind it (link is to a blog by a Ph D student).

    But hang on, is Kold serious? Did that really just happen?

  8. I know — I didn't think anyone still went in for Pascal's Wager either.

Comments are closed.

© 2018 Good Reason

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑